My friend Wendy Lang is a former educator, an advocate for public education and a single parent who understands the value of those who invest in the lives of children.   She is also a regular columnist for the Decatur Daily, her hometown newspaper.
She just attended her youngest son’s graduation from the University of Alabama and the occasion caused her to reflect a lot.  Here are her thoughts:

It would seem that our legislature and society, as a whole, have taken the stance that educators are to have one goal and one goal only; to work diligently in an effort to raise declining test scores.  It makes me tremble in anger as both a former educator and as a parent that we have come to this point.  My greatest fear is that one day educators might actually adhere to this verdict.

I was visiting with a classroom teacher last week who was thrilled because every student in her room had achieved some measure of growth; however, she was visited by her principal who informed her that although each child did grow academically under her tutelage, they did not rise to the bar that he had set for them.  Not only was she unaware of this “bar of excellence”, but her enthusiasm was gone.  She felt that once again, her best simply wasn’t good enough and that she was not appreciated for her attempts at making a difference in the lives of children while helping them to achieve academic growth.  Her administrator went on to state that because every child was not at least ten points above the spread for “proficiency” that her job might be in jeopardy.  

This administrator hadn’t noticed that she spent untold hours tutoring those that didn’t quite get it or that when they showed up for school in shoes that didn’t fit, she made her way to town and bought them a pair herself.  He hadn’t noticed that those that came to school with no coat because they didn’t have one magically went home in a coat that same afternoon.  He never saw her stuffing backpacks with food because sometimes a school lunch is the last meal of the day for many children.  He didn’t know that she had made her classroom a safe haven for her students and that she listened to her children’s problems and helped them to see right from wrong.  After all, she didn’t advertise all that she did.  This was her calling; her mission field; her heart.  Or to be honest, maybe her administrator did know, but he just didn’t care.

You see, test scores are front page news.  Everyone wants to know how you scored.  But thankfully, not every educator adheres to the law of the land.  Some educators still see the importance of making a difference.  Some educators believe that once you have been in their classroom, you will forever be their baby regardless of your age.  Some teachers go the extra mile day after day because they understand that children need someone that cares about them and not just the scores that are derived from one test given only on one day of the year.

My son graduated Suma Cum Laude this past weekend from the University of Alabama with a degree in Business Analytics and Finance.  His life hasn’t always been as easy as he wanted people to think.  Thankfully he had teachers that cared about the whole child and not just the part that tested well.  They listened and cared and offered sage advice.  I’m not sure, but I think they have even told him a time or two that his mother isn’t all bad and for that, I will always be grateful. 

Saturday as the orchestrabegan to play Pomp and Circumstance, two of his high school teachers climbed the steps in the coliseum to where our family sat and joined us as we watched Jorge cross the stage in his well-deserved gold sash.  (They had driven 150 miles way to get  there.) I couldn’t help but shed a tear and say a prayer of thanks…..Thank you, Heavenly Father that my son had teachers that saw him as more than a test score.  Help those who write the laws and set the goals to understand that educators do more than just teach.  And bless these two who sit beside me real good for such is the kingdom of heaven.